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Whither Now, Green Archers?

Indeed, where to from here? Fearful, indecisive and error-prone in the first half of its titanic UAAP battle yesterday against the Auld Enemies from across the metropolis, the script for the Green Archers of De La Salle University read like a sequel to its fumbling, error-strewn debut match against the Growling Tigers last week.

It was a B-Movie produced in a studio that in its heydey produced blockbusters that starred now iconic names like Renren Ritualo, Don Allado, Mackmack Cardona and JV Casio. To name a few of the actors in an era when the plot of each story always and inevitably ended in glory and silverware.

Segue to the present and a Green Archers team that has in recent years not been pleasant to watch, not least because of a propensity to implode and the failure of some in the green and white to stand up and be counted when they most needed to be.

While the Men in Blue rejoiced season after season and had the utter gall and temerity to complete the five-peat that those on the Green Side prayed to God and all Lasallian saints that they would not. But the Jesuits had a direct line to the Almighty, the prayers were ignored and Ateneo went one better than the best streak of titles that the Archers could muster during their halcyon days.

So, whither now, Green Archers? A team that in the past could frequently be guilty of mentally fragility chose its moment to finally play with the swagger of a winning team. It seldom comes bigger than against Ateneo.
The floods in Taft probably could not all the time be blamed on the monsoons.

And so back to the SM Mall of Asia Arena and a day when the portents promised that it was probably the best day to show up against Ateneo and end a painful 6-match losing streak. The defending champion was in the unfamiliar and unglamorous position of having to prop up the rest of the league and its talismanic star player Kiefer Ravena was out with an ankle injury.

But after a promising opening salvo for the Archers, order was seemingly restored as Ateneo played like the defending champion that it was and La Salle played like, well, La Salle. Of recent years, anyway.

Risky passes that really had little chance of completion. Inability to hold on to the ball. Lack of movement. Individuals forgetting that they had teammates. And the familiar look of doubt and fear etched on the faces of some of the players.

It was 40-28 after a half when the neutral could have been forgiven for thinking that it was the team in green that had yet to win its first game of the current season.

They do talk about games of two halves. Whatever DLSU coach Juno Sauler told his team at halftime must have been inspired, because the Green Archers came out of the dugout for the second half a different team.

The players ran with more purpose. The defence tightened up. The decision making became better. The Green Archers were barely recognisable from the team that fumbled its way through the first half. It was suddenly a team that wanted it.

A 25-8 run gave the Archers a 3-point lead going into the fourth quarter during which they played with the calm and poise of a championship team. Ateneo is a proud basketball team and was not prepared to lay down and die. But suddenly the ghosts of glories past came back to inspire the Men in Green to play in a way they seldom did particularly in tight endgames.

In the midst of all these, one Arnold van Opstal, who in recent years must have caused many a Lasallian head to go bald. This van Opstal stood a giant inside the paint – literally – plucking down rebounds, blocking shots and scoring at the other end.

And Jeron Teng, who for all his apparent talent could often use the savvy of a Kiever Ravena, finally delivered that which was promised. When on song, Teng can be just as mesmerising to behold as a Kiefer Ravena in full flight.

With Almond Vosotros and Luigi dela Paz contributing clutch shots in the endgame, it was the turn of the fans on the Blue Side of the arena to get that sinking feeling.

Success in sport, they say, is cyclical. While it’s still early days yet, the final buzzer saw Ateneo staring at a 0-3 record and La Salle seemingly having turned a corner.

So, whither now, Green Archers? A team that in the past could frequently be guilty of mentally fragility chose its moment to finally play with the swagger of a winning team. It seldom comes bigger than against Ateneo.

In its second half form, the Green Archers looked championship material. Dare the suffering hordes on the Green Side now dream?